Going Beyond the 30 Second Ad is Not Only Desirable, it’s Now Essential

How a Content First approach to brand communications is creating more engagement

By Antony Young, CEO Mindshare North America

The 30 second ad has served us well as the staple for awareness building and driving brand familiarity.  However, the speed at which media is being viewed across multiple devices; the increasing scale and influence of social platforms; and how consumers now more than ever are dictating where, when and what media they choose to consumer is causing us to re-think how brands need to engage them.

That’s why I think that one of the most important ideas that agencies will have to adopt is a Content First approach to media.  If our role is to figure out how best to influence consumers, then we have to take a more strategic perspective on where to deliver ads as well as what type of content and content formats are best placed to meet brand communication goals.

Using Longer Form Content To Drive Reappraisal

royal carribbeanWhen Royal Caribbean looked to get first time cruisers to book, this presented them some real challenges.  A 30-second spot alone would not be enough to overcome all the misconceptions about cruises with which the brand needed to content.  Long form story telling was necessary to draw the consumer into the true onboard experience and shift consideration and reshape perceptions.  So Royal Caribbean agreed to develop two short films shot on their flagship “Allure of the Seas: ship featuring Jenny McCarthy and James Brolin.  The storyline incorporated their amenities onboard and gave viewers a more entertaining and organic view of the onboard experience.

 Shorter Form Commercials Are Increasingly becoming As Important

With 1 in 3 digital minutes now spent on a mobile device, when advertising a brand there’s a fine line between annoyance and acceptance that needs to be managed.    During College Basketball’s March Madness, the NCAA pushed out via Twitter live video game highlights of plays as they took place.  Followers could click on to the tweeted link that ran 5 second AT&T spots before the content.  A thirty or fifteen second spot would have certainly been a turn-off, but a short 5 second spot close up, seemed an acceptable trade for real time content in providing a positive consumer experience for basketball fans.   A Content First strategy ensures the consumer experience decides the messaging formats.

Content is About Really Putting the Consumer First

In truth, while we in the ad industry talk about putting consumers first, the reality is that creating ads is really about putting the brand at the center.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Content, however, plays a different role, in that rather than being focused on brand wants, it is targeted to consumer needs…for information, entertainment, expertise, etc.

HSBC’s Commercial  Banking group wanted to attract small to mid-size companies seeking to expand their business internationally.  Business without Borders – an online platform was created for businesses looking to expand outside of the U.S.

With HSBC we worked with the The Wall Street Journal, Economist Intelligence Unit and Bloomberg to curate business tools, global trends articles, and market analysis and complemented it with relevant financial information and resources.  LinkedIn provided an additional platform to connect this content to the right people, and activate a community of business professionals.

Business without Borders has become a meeting place where members develop relationships and share their experiences as part of the global economy.

In this case, thinking Content First helped to create utility, offer expert advice and help business professionals, exactly the brand proposition that HSBC are looking to establish.  That would have been difficult to achieve with traditional advertising.

Technology is fueling numerous new content opportunities

Some evolving technologies are helping us to create more powerful and relevant advertising opportunities.  When SAP tweeted links to New York Times content they felt was relevant to their CXO followers , SAP through a technology called Ricochet was able to own all the display ad positions around these articles on the NY Times web page.  This not only provided branding of valuable content to their customer, but click through rates that tracked 14 times higher than their response norms.

 makersBranded Content Needs to be Both Social and Shareable

One of the important pay outs in a Content First strategy is driving earned media.  It’s a universal truth that consumers are going to be more likely to share content than ads.  I really loved how Unilever teamed up with AOL and MAKERS Founder and Executive Producer Dyllan McGee to develop its Makers.com program for facial skincare brand Simple.  Simple’s goal was to celebrate women whose authenticity, ideals and pioneering spirit inspire others every day.  AOL helped develop a video platform to produce and share some 160 amazing stories of empowering and inspirational women that helped to make America … from Hillary Clinton to Hope Solo and Ellen DeGeneres.  The content program, TV special on PBS and surrounding events for the program drove advocacy amongst opinion formers, delivered this at scale generating over 200 million earned impressions via editorial, social mentions and raging endorsements from top beauty magazine editors to influential bloggers.

Data is Creating Adaptive Content Marketing Opportunities

We are seeing examples of how marketers are adapting their messaging by combining data and creativity.  Take what The Home Depot is doing with The Weather Channel.  Tapping the Home Depot banner on the Weather Channel’s mobile app sends you to their mobile ecommerce site, which dynamically showcases products extracting weather conditions and location data of the user.  Very cool.

Today’s crowded market creates more obstacles than ever before for advertisers, making it an increasingly difficult task to stand out and be heard.  The answer doesn’t start in the boardroom with a handful of executives creating an ad that is then pushed out.  It starts in the world, with a single consumer looking for information and entertainment, and a brand that is listening.

[An edited version appeared in Adage.com http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/30-ad-a/240857/]


6 Reasons Why Media Should Come Before Creative …

Appeared in Ad Age April 3, 2012

Not that long ago media used to be the last ten minutes of the meeting.  The big TV idea, the provocative headline or the right choice of talent was the key to unlocking brand fame in a world where advertising was first and foremost about interrupting an audience.  But for many marketers that playbook is being tossed aside.  The conventional order of: planning-creative-production-distribution is being flipped.  Answering where and how we should communicate is preceding what we should say.  Here’s why:

1.       We’ve Moved From a World of Mad Men to Math Men (and Women) 

Advertising has become a numbers game.  The more pressing questions from the C-Suite today are: How much should we ideally spend?  Which brands should be supported?  What is the return on investment?  And which channels will best pay out?   Before developing the right messaging, the right business case for advertising needs to be established first.  One of the biggest factors for marketing failure is not matching the right budget to the goals or getting the right plan.  Our business planning team helped one of our clients sell the case for a three-fold increase in ad budget to their Board.  Their business is thriving as a result of having the right level of investment.

2.       The Big Television Idea in Advertising Has Lost Ground to Small, Smartly Placed, Relevant Ideas

In the agency world, we live to sell clients the big idea.  A Nike Just Do It or a Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.  David Ogilvy wrote back in 1983 “I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea,” something I think is still very much the case today.  Larry Light introduced Brand Journalism, a breakthrough strategy for McDonald’s that debunked the idea of a universal message in place of using many stories to speak to different audiences. The Big Idea just isn’t a scalable proposition in advertising.   To me, relevance is one of the most important currencies in communications.  Smart tactical use of different media at relevant times, locations and environments with custom messages is what creates engagement.

Axe has done this brilliantly over the years using an array of channels to talk to young men.  This includes branded television series of men trying to win over women, mating game tool kits, spritzes from attractive female models wandering the aisles of retail stores and sponsoring nightclubs.

3.       Right Media, Right Message

While working on a new business pitch, I worked with Rob Feakins the Chief Creative Officer at Publicis New York.  He charged several teams in his creative department to come up with pitch ideas. Before the teams presented their ideas to him, he called me and asked if I could talk him through the media plan. I was intrigued; rarely have I found a creative to express much interest in media.  He said the relative importance of different media would help him judge the potential campaign concepts better. Knowing whether out-of-home or print or television advertising was going to be the principal channel would help him decide which idea to back.

4.       Content is Still Very Much King, But Which Kind of Content?

In a broadcast world the 30 second ad ruled.  But in a multi-platform digital landscape that content can and needs to take many forms.  A media plan is as likely to consist of long form video series, custom sponsored programing, short form video pre-rolls, interactive creative, mobile apps and curated branded content, alongside the more traditional ad units.  Each media forms bring a different mix of engagement, shareability and branding.  Defaulting to a creative brief that starts with the more predictable advertising units at the outset will likely stymie innovation.  This is an issue when research suggests that more and more brand decisions are being influenced by sources beyond advertising.

My advice: develop the media plan first, then determine what mix of creative assets that need to be developed.

5.       Adaptive Marketing

I wrote about this idea a couple months back.  Adaptive Marketing is the ability to adapt and personalize campaigns real time, by responding to data collected on the audience via their web behavior or social graph.

A favorite example of this is Intel’s Museum of Me that takes content collected from you Facebook Timeline to create a personalized animated film.

6.       Media is more than a venue for your ads

The Super Bowl, the Academy Awards, The Grammys, television premieres, a Final of American Idol have become media events.  Social media and tablets have turned them into live interactive marketing bonanzas.  Customizing ads and marketing programs to leverage these events is becoming a powerful strategy.  Poise used the Academy Awards to promote its pads through a Whoopi Goldberg spot and online program.  It created a viral storm and sales hit record levels.

Media companies are leading the way when it comes to navigating the paid, owned and earned world.  Media ‘brands’ such as ESPN, AOL, MTV, The X-Factor, YouTube, Jimmy Kimmel, Project Runway plus the established Broadcast Networks and print/web titles are able to deliver consistently large scale advertising audiences, give brands access to content and drive the conversation in social media.  To leverage these opportunities fully, media partners need to be a brought in much earlier in the marketing planning process.

To be clear, this is not a media versus creative discussion.  All stakeholders need to be part of a media discussion … the brand, account management, account planning, creative, digital and the media teams.  Maybe it is now time for the Creative to be the last 10 minutes in the meeting!

Why Marketers Had to Be at CES

Immersion Is Worth the Trip, Says Mindshare CEO Antony Young

By:  Published in AdAge.com : January 18, 2012
In a world where everything at CES is blogged, posted on YouTube or tweeted, you could be excused for questioning the value of making the trek to the scrum in Las Vegas each January.

But the difference between attending CES and reading about it is like the difference between going to a football game and watching it on TV. Like a football game, actually, CES offers massive crowds, underwhelming food and good odds you’ll miss something from your limited perspective. All that said, however, nothing beats just being there.

The visibility and insight you garner from being up close to the players, sharing conversations with other knowledgeable spectators and the encounters outside the main event, in my mind, make this a “must attend” venue for marketers.

So why is CES a valuable event and what does it bring for marketers?

It’s a tech show, but really it’s about understanding how content will be consumed
CES 2012 really hammered home to me just how technology and media continue to intersect in new ways. Tablets, smartphones, notebooks, TVs and the odd internet-enabled fridge are portals to entertainment, media and social interactivity. Smart mobile devices are poised to become the lead media consumption platform sooner or later. With a truckload of smarter, interconnected, smaller and cheaper mobile devices being showcased at CES, consumers will expect content to be smarter, on the go and 24/7. This is disrupting the way marketers have to think about creating and distributing marketing content.

But consumers are also going to be seeking free content to make the most of their new devices’ capabilities. I predict this will be the biggest opportunity for marketers in 2012.

There’s value in getting wet
Across their busy work schedules, marketers have been accustomed to getting information in drips: The odd article off a news feed, a chance meeting or visit by a vendor, a one-off panel at a conference or a half-year agency update on the latest media trends. Information comes dribbling in like a leaky tap. But CES is like standing under a high-pressure shower head that immediately gets you totally soaked. That’s when you really start to immerse in the media world and think more about taking action instead of being a spectator.

Speed dating … CES style 
It’s what happens outside the exhibit halls that really adds value to the week. The likes of Facebook, Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft and Twitter were all in attendance again this year, bringing their top execs to town. The clients that chose to attend the conference got to hear firsthand the latest offerings in a Silicon Valley-meets-upfronts-style event. I was impressed with AOL’s Huffpo HD, its venture into online social TV, a fresh alternative to a tired television model in need of updating. There were plenty of sidebar conversations that offered more individual and specific conversations for clients’ brands.

A chance to set New Year’s resolutions
Because CES takes place in early January, it gives marketers and agencies the opportunity to jointly engage in discussions at the start of a new year and lay down some resolutions. It’s a great platform to set some big goals about how you’re going to change and embrace the shifting landscape … a potential catalyst to make one or two big ideas happen.

I’ll see you again next year.



Ad Age … Five Questions With Mindshare CEO Antony Young

Not All Agencies Are the Same, According to This Industry Veteran

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After a 15-year career at Publicis Groupe, where his specialty was importing and exporting global insights and new business, Antony Young last fall joined a longtime competitor: WPP’s Mindshare.

Mr. Young served in various roles at Publicis’ ZenithOptimedia, including CEO of the Asia Network, where he helped launch and oversee Zenith China. Before that, he was regional media director forSaatchi & Saatchi, where he led media-planning duties for Procter & Gamble in Asia. Most recently, he was CEO of Publicis’ Optimedia in the U.S.

Antony Young
Susan J. Chen

Antony Young

Mr. Young, who officially succeeded Phil Cowdell as chief of Mindshare in September, talked to Ad Age about the move and the changes he plans to make. Don’t expect any deals, though. Mr. Young says he’s out to build, not buy.


Ad Age: How have your first weeks been? Any culture shock after spending so much time at Publicis? 

Mr. Young: They’ve been great. It’s refreshing after 15 years in Publicis Groupe to come into WPP. Anyone who tells you all agencies are the same is completely wrong. There’s a different kind of feel here. There’s a lot of investment going into the media businesses. WPP definitely feels much more connected in that they see the overall businesses as a whole group of agencies working together in a strategic fashion. For example, WPP has Team Detroit and an IBM team. There are a lot more integrated groups and client solutions here. … What’s impressed me is we’re prepared to make investments to bring broad communications solutions and expertise that span owned- and earned-media channels.

Ad Age: Tell us about some of the changes you are planning. Any acquisitions on the horizon?

Mr. Young: An area I’m particularly passionate about is how we build out communications strategies to play a personal-shopper role at the agency. I’ve been reaching out and talking to as many clients as I can, trying to understand what other kind of big opportunities they’re looking for from a media partner. I consistently hear clients asking, What’s my business strategy, my communications strategy, my digital strategy? What else can I prioritize? How do I differentiate in this market? Companies are more competitive, so there’s more pressure to drive big businesses. We’ve got to evolve our business rather than buy our way into it. It’s not a solution I would even think about. If you look at a media agency model today vs. five years ago, it’s changed dramatically. I think the solution is within us vs. outside. We can evolve and build those skills.

Ad Age: What would you say is your biggest challenge right now?

Mr. Young: Getting there more quickly than our competition and driving innovation. We’re asking a lot more from our people in terms of skills and responsibilities. In the old days, media people only had to do three things: planning, buying and organizing tickets for clients. Now we’re called on to do so much more. Client leads have to manage big and varied team planners, buyers, digital people, etc., and then also have to take on more of a role of account management versus service. The next [challenge] is becoming more converse with digital and learning other skills like social content. We also need to be focused on building better collaboration with the creative agency.

Ad Age: One knock we hear from a lot of media-industry executives is that shops under the Group M banner are indistinguishable. Do you feel that way at Mindshare?

Mr. Young: You’re right. We need to come out more distinctly and define our positioning, but it’s not a Group M issue. It’s a media-agency issue. What’s impressed me about Group M is its go-to-market strategy on trading and implementation. Take it from a guy who ran an agency and has had to compete against Group M over the last five years. The way negotiations are centralized and managed, we’re able to consolidate the scale of media buying across all the agencies.

Ad Age: Are you noticing any trends that might have a significant impact on media?

Mr. Young: We’re seeing things we’d traditionally call stunts and one-off events much more in scalable media. With the power of social, there’s now a legit strategy to create an event. In China, Greenpeace did a promotion with 80,000 pairs of disposable chopsticks. They turned them into trees, filmed the building and put it online. Millions saw that. We’re opening up and broadening media. Now we can drive more global audiences, and new media is making it scalable and more valuable to market.

My top ten list of top ten lists for 2011 …

This is that time of the year when everyone comes out with their top ten list of 2011.  I’m never been a great believer in re-inventing the wheel, so have curated my top ten top ten lists of 2011 … Enjoy!

1. Forbes.com top ten social media lessons of 2011 by Christopher Barger

Part 1  and Part 2

Lesson #7: People in social platforms not only want to feel “part of” events or phenomena, but social networks allow them to feel like they truly are part of a collective.

2. ZDNet’s 2011’s Top Ten Pirated TV Shows by Steven Vaughan-Nichols

3. Most viewed videos on YouTube

Ultimate Dog Teaser 75.8million views

4. Search Engine Watch’s Top 10 Most Significant Search & Social Marketing Stories of 2011 by Guillaume Bouchard 

#4. Facebook Becomes Biggest Site for Display Ads on Earth

5. Ecopreneurist’s top 10 green marketing campaigns by Jennifer Kaplan

#5. HSBC “No Small Change”: A highly successful campaign elevated HSBC’s environmental credentials and consolidated their environmental leadership position; it exceeded all expectations without TV or radio

6. Ad Age’s Top 10 Viral Advertising Campaigns of 2011

# 8. Google: “The Web Is What You Make of It” Agency: Google Creative Lab Launch date: May 2 Views: 21.2 million

Google’s Chrome browser is becoming its second-most successful product, behind Search. It passed Firefox and is closing in onMicrosoft‘s Internet Explorer. Google enlisted Lady Gaga, Johnny Cash (posthumously) and Justin Bieber, among others, in 11 creative executions. Some have been promoted to TV from YouTube.

7. Adweek’s Top Ten TV Commercials in 2011 by Tim Nudd

#2 CHIPOTLE • Back to the Start

8. Hubspot’s top ten marketing infographics for 2011

#3. Top Email Marketing Irritations

9. The Faster Times top ten marketing stories we’ll still be talking about in 2012 by Mat Zucker

#6. Twitter as customer service channel

10. Mashable’s top ten iPad apps by Christine Warren

What Do the Best Media Strategies and Executions in the World Look Like?

By Antony Young, posted on Adage.com, May 10 2011

Last weekend I sat on the judging panel of the International Festival of Media awards. Some 800 entries from 50 countries were submitted by every global media agency network as well as some first-rate creative and digital shops in a World Cup-style playoff of the best of the best.

The competition was incredibly democratic. It didn’t matter how big the budget had been or whether the work originated from Stockholm or Sydney. The finest ideas and most inventive media implementation won the day.

The media game has changed massively from even three or four years ago. The category with the largest number of entries, for example, was Best Use of Content. Media has transformed from a delivery system for ad creative to a place where the primary content can embody marketing messages.

I loved a campaign for Pampers in the Philippines that sparked a widespread movement behind “Baby Yoga.” The media agency created a daily morning TV program that invited celebrity moms to do exercises with their infant child. The stretching exercises and product integration helped P&G diapers with “stretchy sides” overtake its top competitor in that market, Huggies.

Moving from owned media to earned media, I absolutely loved CoppaFeel!, a U.K. campaign to promote young women’s awareness of breast cancer that cost just $16,000 to promote. The campaign, founded by 23-year-old cancer survivor Kristin Hallenga, engaged volunteers during Breast Cancer Awareness month with the goal to “hijack every pair of boobs in the U.K.” Promotional stickers and images encouraging women to self-check their breasts wound up on students, celebrities, professional athletes, shop mannequins, statues, posters and social media sites. The campaign grabbed the country’s attention, creating a movement that spread like wildfire.

The campaigns that impressed most, however, were sparked with a genuine consumer insight. Whiskas cat food in Australia did exactly that. Its insight was that in a dog-dominated country (50% of Australian households own a dog while less than 25% of households own a cat) most cat owners were embarrassed to talk about their pets in public. The agency planners discovered that cat owners were yearning for a ‘safe haven’ for cat talk where they could share stories, tips and celebrate their feline friends. They created an online community for owners to talk about their cats and connect with other cat lovers. They created Facebook-type profiles on a Whiskas site to show off their cats. They then asked consumers to vote for the cat that should appear on the front of Whiskas packs. Owners developed their own campaigns in social media to promote voting.

My personal award for the most resourceful campaign went to an agency trying to promote car insurance in Poland by helping drivers realize the effects of reckless driving. They partnered up with the local police in Warsaw! When a police officer stopped a driver for a traffic offence, drivers were given a choice: They could either accept the ticket or enter a special car-crash simulator. These simulators were branded by Aviva; drivers received information on Aviva’s services and how they would support them in the claim process. A smashing piece of work!

There were some disappointments. Too many media buzz words used with alarming regularity. Papers that included phrases like “this innovative multi-platform, fully integrated 360-degree program provided a highly engaging holistic campaign that surrounded the consumer whilst delivering amazing ROI” got rightfully marked down by the judges. So too were campaigns that didn’t attempt to connect media to a sales or business outcome. Interestingly, the Best Use of Digital category now almost seems a bit quaint, as I could barely remember a single entry in any category that did not have digital well and truly embedded, if not leading the campaigns.

Fellow judge MillerCoors’ media director Stevie Benjamin made a great summation when she remarked, “media’s role has to advance the message.” The winners all demonstrated this in spades.

I encourage you to check out the Cream Global site that has all the entries here.

Antony Young is the CEO of Optimedia U.S., a Publicis Groupe media-strategy and -buying agency headquartered in New York. He recently published his second book, “Brand Media Strategy: Integrated Communications Planning in a Digital Era,” a Palgrave-MacMillan and Advertising Age publication.

Is Experience in Media and Advertising Overrated?

Appeared in Ad Age April 22, 2011

Last week I spoke to a bunch of seniors at Syracuse’s Newhouse communications school. I discussed how one of the leading challenges we face is trying to keep up with and remain relevant in this fast-changing media market. I realized that the students couldn’t really grasp a world where everyone actually read a physical newspaper or even remember a time when network prime-time dominated. They think “Friends” and “Seinfeld” are just shows that run in syndication, they get their political news on “The Daily Show” — which they watch online — and nearly all of them are active tweeters. To them, the media world hasn’t changed. It’s just they way it is.

The students then peppered me with questions on social media. What new ways is your agency employing it for brands? How do you measure its effectiveness? How are you selling it to clients? It didn’t occur to them that as a media agency, we wouldn’t be deploying social media on all clients’ campaigns.

It made me wonder whether our industry puts too much stock in “experience.” We value it, seek it out, even sell it in our agency credentials. But is experience overrated in media when the ground is shifting so quickly?

WPP’s Martin Sorrell a few years back said brands weren’t moving quickly enough to digital because the people running agencies “tend to be of an older vintage,” which he felt were more inclined “to be resistant to change.” Clients are so often looking for new ideas and fresh thinking, yet as agencies we continue to offer up account directors, creatives and planners with category experience. (What did Einstein say about the definition of insanity?) In fact, when a new CMO arrives at a client, it’s the agency’s habit of sticking to what worked in the past that so often gets it into trouble.

In new business, agencies frequently like to speak to their experience, but do clients place the same importance on it? In a recent new-business meeting we had with a prospect, I insisted that we not present any credentials or client case-studies. The pitch team was unsure but agreed to go with it. The clients’ feedback: Of all the agencies they met, we impressed them the most.

Agencies at the top of the tree do seem to be figuring out that direct experience isn’t as essential as it once seemed. Consider the number of non-American execs that appear to be doing very well heading U.S. media agencies. The roll call includes Nick Brien (McCann Worldgroup), Richard Beaven (Initiative), Nigel Morris (Aegis), Martin Cass (Carat), Phil Cowdell (Mindshare) and Tim Jones (ZenithOptimedia). I could even add myself to that list. This would seem to suggest that deep experience in U.S. media isn’t a prerequisite for being successful.

In fact, it would appear that in many cases, having little direct experience in a sector might be an advantage. Joe Uva completed a very successful stint as head of Univision. The Italian-American former CEO of OMD and TV exec didn’t even speak Spanish. Kevin Roberts spent his career as a client at P&G, Pepsi and Lion Nathan before being appointed to run Saatchi & Saatchi. And I recently had the pleasure of meeting Greg Osberg, a former magazine and internet executive who is now CEO and president of Philadelphia Media Network and appears to be doing an imposing job shaking up the newspaper company.

Of course, many will point to numerous examples of a complete outsider coming into a role only to fail miserably. But for every one of those, I’d count many more examples of insiders with the right experience on paper who have been misses.

I’m not discounting grey hair. Many will know I’ve got plenty of my own on offer. However, my advice is not to discard a resume too quickly because of a lack of relevant experience or many years spent acquiring it. One thing that attracted me to this business is that someone once told me that the advertising business always puts talent ahead of seniority … qualities over qualifications … results over style. Somehow we lost sight of that. It’s my view that the people in our business that seem to have the highest chance of success are those that have unbridled passion, electric enthusiasm and a constant appetite to figure out the next new thing before the other guy or gal. At least that’s what I’ve found in my experience!